Digital products can’t be held, tasted, or touched, but everyone consumes them—from music to videos, ebooks to online courses, and more.
Many entrepreneurs build entire businesses around these intangible goods, due to their popularity and ease of distribution, or launch digital products to sell complementary to the physical items or services they offer.
What makes learning how to sell digital products especially appealing, however, is they can be created once and sold repeatedly to different customers without having to replenish inventory, making them ideal for creatives, bloggers, educators, and freelancers looking for passive ways to make money online that require less effort to maintain.
This guide will walk you through how to sell digital products online—including the top digital products examples, how to create your own, and marketing tips to sell online successfully.
What are digital products?
A digital product is an intangible asset or piece of media that can be sold and distributed repeatedly online without the need to replenish inventory. These products often come in the form of downloadable or streamable digital files, such as MP3s, PDFs, videos, plug-ins, and templates.
Why sell digital products versus physical goods?
Selling digital products has many advantages that makes it uniquely attractive to entrepreneurs:
- Low overhead costs.You don’t have to hold inventory or incur any shipping charges.
- High profit margins. There’s no recurring cost of goods, so you retain the majority of your sales in profits.
- Potential to automate. Orders can be delivered instantly, letting you be relatively hands-off with fulfillment.
- Flexible products. You can offer free products to build your email list, monthly paid subscriptions for access to exclusive digital content, or licenses to use your digital products. You have a lot of options as to how you incorporate digital products into your business.
- E-learning is the future of education. You have a massive opportunity to expand your business and impact with e-learning, an industry expected to be worth $374 billion by 2026.
But online digital products also come with specific challenges you’ll need to watch out for:
- You’re competing with free content. With digital goods, consumers can probably find free alternatives to what you’re selling. You’ll have to think carefully about the niche you target, the types of digital products you sell, and your product descriptions. You’ll also want to offer high-quality products and know how to build your brand in order to compete.
- You’re susceptible to piracy/theft. You need to take precautions and reduce these risks by employing the right tools to protect your products.
- There are some restrictions on how to sell digital products. For example, you must sell physical products through the Facebook and Instagram sales channel according to their commerce policy.
Most of these challenges can be overcome, however, if you employ the right tools when designing your digital product business.
6 best digital products to sell online
1. Educational products
Online courses are best suited for in-depth content. They require some effort up front, from creating a presentation to recording a video walk-through. When creating courses, start with learner outcomes: what do you want the learner to know or be able to do at the end of your course?
You can include quizzes, knowledge checks, and interactive activities within your courses to help break-up learning content and make your e-course more engaging. Consider learning and implementing a teaching model like ADDIE.
If you consider yourself an expert on a particular topic, digital products are a great way to package that information and sell it to others looking to learn.
If there’s an abundance of free blog posts or tutorials on YouTube about what you’d like to teach, you can compete by delivering content that promises not education but transformation. In other words, don’t sell the product—sell the customer’s own potential after buying your product.
You can leverage an existing reputation as an expert to garner attention for your downloadable products to sell online or, if you’re starting from scratch, you can create and give away free content to generate interest and leads for your paid digital products.
2. Licenses to use your digital assets
From stock photos to video footage, from music and sound effects, there’s a global ecosystem of licensable digital assets uploaded by creatives for other creatives to use in their work.
By offering licenses to individuals and businesses, you can charge for the use of your photos, videos, music, software, and similar top digital products in your own store and through online marketplaces, such as stock photo sites. In exchange for exposure, some of these marketplaces can take up to 50% in commission for every sale. However, if you want to build your own destination for digital products to sell, you can use Sendowl to power this type of business with unique auto-generated license keys.
When coming up with assets to create, it helps to work backward from the needs of your intended audience. Start by thinking about what kind of assets they’d want to use in order to create products that are actually in demand (and thus easier to sell).
Also, be sure to protect your digital products with watermarks and other security measures, especially if you’re selling photos.
3. Membership sites
Instead of focusing on how to sell digital products individually, you can bundle them together and lock them behind a paid subscription to generate recurring revenue.
This approach to selling digital products is ideal if you plan to maintain a growing library of premium content and nurture a community of passionate members. In some cases, paid digital subscriptions can even create an opportunity to directly monetize your existing content marketing efforts.
Since this content is behind a gate that only paying subscribers can access through their customer account, you can also host exclusive content that can be streamed rather than downloaded.
You can build this type of business idea by using Charge Rabbit for recurring subscription billing and Sky Pilot as your digital delivery system.
4. Digital templates and tools
Digital products can also come in the form of intangible tools that equip professionals to do tasks that either fall outside of their skill set or take up a lot of time. You can sell digital solutions to the common pain points and needs of a specific audience.
Some examples of how to sell digital products online this way include:
- Digital marketing strategy templates for entrepreneurs
- Résumé templates for job-seekers
- Mobile apps for businesses
- Graphic design templates for brochures, flyers, posters, etc.
- Adobe Photoshop filters and plugins for media editors
- Icons, fonts, or UX Kits for web designers
If you already have a freelance business, it might be worth considering how you can turn your skills and services into digital products to create passive streams of revenue.
5. Music or art
If you’re a musician or an artist, chances are you’ve explored ways you can monetize your talents or the audience you’re building. While print on demand t-shirts or custom prints are always an option, there are also plenty of digital product examples for selling art and music.
A musician can sell ringtones of their best songs alongside their merch. Or a cartoonist could turn their art into printables, phone wallpapers, or print-on-demand products. A filmmaker can sell their movies online. Since you don’t have to hold any inventory with online digital products, you can experiment with different formats to see what your audience wants without much risk.
Services tend to pair well with a variety of types of digital products because services are essentially their opposite—with services, your “inventory” is limited to the number of working hours you can accommodate.
Plus, customers often receive digital products as part of their “purchase” with many services. A designer will deliver logos. A personal trainer might deliver a workout plan. Leaning into this, you can position certain services as packages containing valuable digital products.
For example, you could offer a consultation for a fee, along with a personalized report or Excel spreadsheet, and then upsell your customers on your other services or products. Or you could offer a free downloadable product to generate leads for your email marketing list, a tactic that many online businesses employ today.
If there are common tasks you complete as part of your service business that are easy for you but valuable to your customer, you can consider productizing them to create revenue streams that require less of your time and effort to maintain.